Federal Member for Bendigo, Lisa Chesters is demanding justice for local Robodebt victims and calling on the Morrison Government to refund all debt and rule out reducing to such a scheme again.
“Many Central Victorians have contacted my office over the past few years after receiving confusing Centrelink debt notices as high as almost $40,000,” Chesters said.
“The Government took hundreds of millions of dollars off people and then fined them for not paying debts they didn’t owe. It was always unethical and now we know it’s unlawful.”
“The Government bullied far too many Central Victorians into paying debts that they did not have.
“At the time, victims said they were made to feel like they had broken the law. There were some cases that had private debt collectors hounding individuals before they had even received the first debt notice from Centrelink.”
On Friday, the Morrison Government rushed out an announcement which says that 377,000 Australians were ripped off and now they’ll refund people 721 million dollars.
For months Robodebt Minister Stuart Robert has denied the stand-over scheme was unfair, inaccurate or illegal.
Scott Morrison, who was one of the main architects of the scheme, has also continued to deny there was ever an issue with Robodebt.
“Only when confronted with the prospect of 470,000 quiet Australians getting their day in court through a class action has this Government embarked on a backflip for the ages,” Chesters said.
“The Morrison Government must account to the families who lost adult children to suicide because of Robodebt, and for the various other harms, stresses and inconveniences caused.
Sailors Gully resident, Nellie Biggs, has received two Robodebt notices since 2016 and despite receiving volunteered help from a lawyer and going to tribunal, is still uncertain if the debts are legitimate.
“The problem with the Robodebt is the figures vary so much and require so much checking and double checking it is easy to lose track,” Biggs said.
“My first debt originally sat at almost $16,000 – I received this 8 days before Christmas with 14 days to pay it.
“After a number of reviews it was reduced to less than $3,000. That is a significant mistake and I haven’t been able to get information on the calculations involved to get to this.
“My second debt was for almost $3400 plus a $300 recovery fee. I requested recalculation because of previous discrepancies but have not received any information back.
“You get to the point where you just pay it and hope it is all correct.
“There has been no apology or admission that mistakes have been made. It’s disappointing, stressful and time consuming.”
TUESDAY 02 JUNE